Russia & China: opening the little "red" book

I am writing this (4th November 2012) within hours of a US election which will be decided by an electoral college rather than the will of the people.  America is the heartland of the capitalist dream where every ordinary Joe or Julie can rise to billionaire status from rags to immense riches within a lifetime (both Romney and Obamah are living this dream).  Unfortunately, only those with immense riches can run for political office or buy the support of the electoral colleges.  So what is democratic life like in the former/current communist states like Russia and China (respectively) who for decades have been monitored by stealth and for wealth by their western capitalist "rivals".

Russia's  National symbol is the two-headed eagle and for several terms back to back two hawkish leaders have held the powerbase (President and PM) in what is best described as a constitutional rota.  To win power repeatedly without a propaganda machine within a fragmented country left by Yeltsin's transitional shambles (following the collapse of Stalinist millitarism then Gorbachevs ill fated nascent democracy beyond the USSR) is an astonishing feat for Putin and Medvedev.  They are in many respects truly admirable leaders.  Putin is physically fit, mentally strong, and even media leaders from the West address him as sir when they engage in formal, highly informed and intellectually deep interviews on public policy and International affairs across a broad spectrum of sectors and topics.  Russia has campaigned in foreign lands (most recently Afgahnistan) and continues to supply arms and ammunitions to factions and national governments but their presence on the UN security council (often with Chinese support) tempers the sabre rattling of the other G8 superpowers and allows Russia & China to trade with vital suppliers of oil and gas in the middle east.  So Putin is informed, and just but is under considerable International pressure to crush Syrian and Iranian opposition where he applies the old laws of economics (those of supply and demand) to keep his country fuelled and fed.  The contrasts between western leaders and their press interlocutors/interviewers and the Russian leaders is drastic and it appears to hinge on the knowledge base of these informed, feared and experienced campaigners. Russia has suffered even more than others in International conflict and revolution/insurrection at home or holding the USSR reluctantly together.  Stalingrad is a haunting memory for all who are aware of the human sacrifice of world wars and violent revolution.  Blessedly Russia wants to avoid these scenarios now (or takes the UN Charter to protect peace-loving countries more seriously than our other Security Council representatives).  So the Russian leaders are providing an inspirational lead on the face of things and working to keep jobs, GDP high and global trade routes open.  So why would such gifted leaders want to empty the streets of Moscow for their inauguration parades and crack down on internet freedom as they have announced in the summer of 2012Big brother wants to stop you communicating with educated people in all countries?  The cold wars between the superpowers rage on and this is tremendously wasteful and divisive in an era where everyone voices their support for free trade and open democracy.   

China and Russia still have formidably large Communist parties.  But the lands they govern are rich in mineral wealth and their ex-patriot citizens engaged in G8 countries and non-domiciled business gurus are unbelievably rich and disproportionately influential.  It is very unfair to have opinions on countries I have not visited but I have met professors who fled from Russia in the Yeltsin purges who were prepared to work for a technician's salary in the 1990s and they have a long history of excellence in science technology, culture and the arts.  Western banks are now deeply integrated into these countries as are the media moguls.  The result is, as in many other sections of this website, immense wealth divide, corporate land grabs and of course privatisation of national assets.  The concept of creating wealth is still pursued vigorously but the vision of sharing it equally amongst ordinary party members or democratic followers of opposition parties has been totally blown out of the water!